On 28 January 2016, former President of Ivory Coast Laurent Gbagbo and former Minister and leader of the Young Patriots (COJEP) Charles Blé Goudé, faced ICC judges at the opening of their joint trial in The Hague, Netherlands. It will also be the first time that a former President will be tried at the ICC.
“The trial is of the utmost importance as it sends a strong signal that even the highest representatives of a State – irrespective of their power and official position – are not immune to prosecution under the Rome Statute system and will face justice for the crimes they have committed,“ stated Karim Lahidji, International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) President.
Laurent Gbagbo and Charles Blé Goudé are charged with four counts of crimes against humanity, murder, rape, other inhumane acts or – in the alternative – attempted murder, and persecution, in the context of the post-election mass violence in Ivory Coast between December 2010 and April 2011.
The five months crisis broke out following presidential elections where Gbagbo refused to step down after his rival, Alassane Ouattara, was proclaimed the winner of the elections by the Independent Electoral Commission. At least 3 000 people were killed and more than 150 women raped during the crisis, often in targeted acts by armed forces on both sides. Blé Goudé allegedly played a key role in Gbagbo’s inner circle, serving as an intermediary between him and youth loyal to Gbagbo, the COJEP, he presided.
Gbagbo pleads not guilty
Yesterday, Gbagbo pleaded not guilty to charges of crimes against humanity. Leader of the Young Patriots, Charles Blé Goudé who is Mr. Gbagbo’s co-accused also pleaded not guilty to the same charges.
The prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensoud, said she has enough evidence against the former Ivorian president.
Gbagbo, 70, at the start of his trial appeared relaxed, smiling and shaking hands with his defence team. One of his advisers, Abdon Bayeto, had earlier said Mr Gbagbo’s innocence was not in doubt according to BBC.
He said: “There’s been a parody of justice here. Somebody who has been in prison for five years with no proof.”
Hundreds of Gbagbo supporters also gathered outside the court at The Hague on Thursday to protest. They accuse the ICC of overlooking alleged crimes by Gbagbo’s opponents, many of whom are now in power. However, the AU is defending a sitting president.